What is a product roadmap and how is it created?
What is a product roadmap and how is it created? A product roadmap is a high-level visual summary that maps the vision and direction of your product offering over time. A product roadmap describes the why and what lies behind your product. A roadmap is a strategic guiding document as well as a plan for implementing the product strategy.
The product roadmap has several ultimate goals:
- Describe the vision and strategy.
- Provide a guiding document for the implementation of the strategy.
- Align internal stakeholders.
- Facilitate discussion of options and scenario planning.
- Assist in communication with external stakeholders, including customers.
Ideally, the product roadmap should articulate the strategic direction of your product and should also link back to the company’s strategy. Within this framework is the general arrangement of what you will build.
Clearly, articulating product vision and strategy can facilitate executive buy-in. It also ensures that everyone is working towards a common goal.
Note that roadmaps are not limited to products. These goals are similar to other types of roadmaps, such as marketing roadmaps and IT roadmaps.
Creating the first product roadmap
Updating an existing roadmap has its own challenges, but creating a roadmap from scratch is difficult for any product manager. There are so many things to include in a product roadmap that it’s hard to know where to start.
First, focus on why the product exists:
- Why are we making this product?
- What do we hope to achieve?
- How will this product help users?
By answering these questions, you focus on the most important things. There are always more things products can do and better ways to do them. But to begin to fulfill the expectations set by the questions above, a basic performance set must be in place.
Plan from the top down
One way to focus on the core strategy rather than getting lost in a sea of features and implementation details is to take a top-down product planning approach. This process begins with a very clear understanding of the product vision. If you’re creating a road map, it’s good to know where you want to go.
From here, agree on the specific goals needed to make this vision a reality; Then the road map will show how to achieve these goals. By prioritizing certain items over others, the roadmap prioritizes the tasks that will bring the product to those goals.
An additional benefit of using a top-down strategy, aside from providing clarity and direction to the product team designing the roadmap, is helping stakeholders execute the plan. The content of the roadmap does not appear to have been arbitrarily placed or the result of a context-free prioritization exercise.
Instead, they align with the vision and goals the company has already set for the product. There may still be differences of opinion, but all of these fade away as the product progresses toward achieving the goals and realizing the vision.
Theme provides structure
Creating an overall theme structures the product roadmap visually and narratively. The theme should match the main goals, such as increasing usability or specifying essential requirements (such as scalability and security).
How does the roadmap evolve as the product matures?
As products evolve, they inevitably become more complex. Expect them to do more to serve other groups or integrate with other products and services.
The product roadmap also evolves. The roadmap for a newly created MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is significantly different from a mature product in many areas:
- It is much more difficult for startups to predict future product needs and opportunities. So their plans probably don’t involve the very distant future. Manufactured products can have longer-term plans.
- They have a better understanding of the customers and the market.
- More mature products can release their products with less urgency. The goals of a startup are very different from an enterprise product. In the first case, it is just trying to prove its survival, attract attention and grow. The second one will have more strategic and diverse goals.
The roadmap is the result of a long analysis and review. When you set strategies and goals, prioritize features and improvements based on different criteria.
There are many ways to prioritize potential product roadmap items. There are dozens of frameworks to choose from, from using OKRs and MoSCow to the RICE scoring model. Regardless of which method is ultimately chosen, proper prioritization requires that production teams do their homework. Evaluate each item under consideration in terms of value, level of effort, and opportunity cost.
Teams must also weigh the benefits of short-term wins against progress toward long-term goals. Any good roadmap will include a combination of both. This map ensures that incremental profits are seen on a regular basis without the pressure and hard work required to advance the overall product strategy.
A complete guide to introducing the project management plan (Project Management Plan)